US presses China to halt militarization of South China Sea

FILE China's President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump attend a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on 9 November 2017

President Xi meets Henry Kissinger - Xinhua |

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis spoke to the press alongside their Chinese counterparts after the four officials held a security and diplomatic dialogue meant to prepare their leaders for a meeting at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina later this month.

Speaking earlier, the Chinese government's top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, said Xi and Trump reached an important consensus on the healthy and stable development of bilateral ties in a telephone call last week.Their meeting at the G20 summit would be of "great significance" in resolving bilateral problems, Wang said.

"The Chinese side made it clear to the United States that it should stop sending its vessels and military aircraft close to Chinese islands and reefs and stop actions that undermine China's sovereignty and security interests", he said.

Fault lines between the U.S. and China were on clear display Friday as senior officials challenged each other over the South China Sea, Taiwan, religious freedom and trade just weeks before President Donald Trump is set to meet with President Xi Jinping.

The U.S. pushed back Friday, insisting it will continue to "fly, sail and operate wherever global law allows". U.S. President Donald Trump has promised to fix China's "longtime abuse of the broken worldwide system and unfair practices".

China said last month the two sides had initially agreed "in principle" to hold the second round of diplomatic security talks in October but they were postponed at Washington's request amid rising tensions over trade, Taiwan and the South China Sea.

"Rather, we want to ensure that China act responsibly and fairly in support of security and prosperity in each of our two countries", Pompeo said.

However, Yang and Chinese defense minister Wei Fenghe spoke of the need to improve cooperation, including between the US and Chinese militaries, to ease the risk of conflict as the two powers jockey for pre-eminence in the Asia-Pacific.

Meeting former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in Beijing, Xi said he and Trump would have a "deep exchange of views" in Argentina, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Wei warned that "confrontation or conflict between the two militaries will spell disaster for all" and said that "cooperation is the only option for us". And we urge the United States to play constructive role for peace and stability in the South China Sea. The U.S. also seeks action from China on the export of a synthetic form of opioids called fentanyl that is a scourge of drug addiction in America.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the talks were "candid" but that the two militaries looked to improve communication and avoid "miscalculation" at sea.

"A trade war, instead of leading to any solution, will only end up hurting both sides and the global economy", he said.

Trump has slapped $250 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese goods, accusing Beijing of nefarious trading practices.

China and the USA are now locked in an ongoing trade war as each country has introduced tariffs on goods traded between each other.

"Our (China-US) trade and economic relations are mutually beneficial by nature and have delivered tangible gains to both the countries and its people".

Washington has also been increasingly critical of Chinese treatment of religious minorities, including Uygur Muslims in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang. "Their top priority is to stabilize relations", she said. But overall, the tone of the US officials' public comments was milder than that of the Chinese.

"Foreign countries have no right to interfere", he said.

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